California provides incentives for e-bike purchases

California Governor Gavin Newsom has just signed legislation that expands the state’s Clean Cars 4 All program to include vouchers for e-bikes. The bill is California Senate Bill 400 (SB 400). The program has provided support for buying electric, hybrid, and plug-in cars and mobility options such as car-sharing memberships and transit passes. Now e-bike purchases are included.

An editorial in Outside Magazine makes the case that the current $375 million in annual subsidies for electric cars would go a long way if applied to e-bike purchases instead.

Searching for east-west connectors

We’ve been exploring different east-west connector routes, and can use some help and input. The goal is to find the best routes for e-bikes today, that can connect to the north-south routes. Those north-south routes connect people to our two largest job centers – Greater Downtown and the Plaza area.

Armour and 35th Street seems like an obvious candidate. The protected bike lane on Armour is excellent, and 35th Street to Benton is a good route without much traffic.

51st Street has some advantages, too, since it doesn’t have a freeway interchange at Bruce R Watkins Drive, However, it has a series of hills that aren’t ideal, and it dead-ends into UMKC, which would require some work-arounds. That’s fine, but we’d like some other opinions on this route.

Riding along Brush Creek, especially from the Plaza to Cleveland is very interesting. It’s not meant to be a higher speed bikeway, but there’s rarely any people walking or running on it today, so there’s little traffic competing for the space. But it also isn’t terribly well-maintained, and there’s trash and homeless people to dodge, as well as some tight curves. Check it out, let us know what you think.

Route updates, crowdsourcing

Before we publish a route, we ride it many times and investigate alternative streets to make the route as direct and safe as possible. But we don’t always nail it right out of the gate. There are so many alternative streets. Time-of-day traffic variations make a difference. Conditions change with the seasons. Construction necessitates rerouting.

So every route should be considered a work in progress.

We welcome suggestions and comments. We’d like to enlist daily riders along each route who can provide expert advice on routing and updates about changing conditions.

What a delight it is to discover a little-known street that greatly improves a route, or a route-jog that avoids a nasty intersection! Daily riders are the ones who figure all of this out, and we are always more than happy to update the maps.

The Smith System for cyclists?

When I took Driver’s Ed in the mid 70s, they taught us the Smith System, which included these five fundamental rules of safe driving:

  • Aim high in steering
  • Get the big picture
  • Keep your eyes moving
  • Leave yourself an out
  • Make sure they see you

Seems to me that these rules are even more important for us city cyclists.

While I’m riding, even through residential areas with little traffic, I’m always trying to “get the big picture,” which means to be aware of every object moving around me–front, back, left and right–rather than focusing exclusively on the most menacing vehicle headed my way. I develop a feel for where everything is headed somewhat like how Patrick Mahomes knows at all times the whereabouts of the other 21 men on the field.

“Leave yourself an out” is also playing on a loop in my head while I ride, especially when coming into an intersection or riding along a line of parked cars. If that car runs the light, am I prepared to take evasive action? If that car door swings open, do I know that the adjacent lane is clear so I can swerve to avoid being gored by an open door?

Commuting on an e-bike that averages nearly 20 mph on city streets is not a relaxing experience, nor does it have to be terrifying or unnerving. I like to think of it as exhilarating. By the time I get to work, I’m fully alert and ready to go.

Reblog: The game changing effect of e-biking in the city

“But on an electric bike, these things hardly matter. I merge onto streets with confidence because I’m moving as fast as most cars. I zoom up inclines I would have otherwise avoided on a pedal bike, shortening my commute. When a light turns green, I’m fast off the line and don’t have to worry about making it across wide or poorly maintained intersections. I’m freed of the weight of my heavy bag, which fits nicely into a sturdy front basket.

On an e-bike, I’ve never felt safer biking on LA’s streets.”

–This nearly year old blog post is an excellent read. It also reinforces what an idiot NYC mayor Bill de Blasio is.

No bike parking, no sale

I was commuting home along the A-Line, which passes a few blocks to the west of the shopping center at Westport and the Southwest Trafficway when it struck me that I needed several items for a project. I diverted to Westlake Hardware, one of my favorite hardware stores in the city, only to find there was no place to secure my bike.

Not only were there no bike racks at Westlake, there were none anywhere on the property. Nor were there any light poles or rails to use. E-bikes being expensive, I had no choice but to go home empty handed.

Bike racks–even the high-quality, attractive designs– are inexpensive, especially when procured through BikeWalkKC. The money I was about to spend at Westlake would have put a big dent in the cost of one.

I imagine the problem here is that these businesses just haven’t thought about the need for bike racks.

So here’s a reminder: KC businesses, if you don’t have a bike rack, you won’t get my business. It’s not that I’m trying to punish you, it’s just that I’m usually on my bike these days and I need a place to secure it to patronize you.

How we pick routes

Much like a subway line, we are looking for transit corridors that connect people from home to office, except of course we’re designing for an e-bike, not an underground train.

We want the following:

  • Direct routes. We measure this by the route mileage between key points versus the “as the crow flies” distance between them.
  • Good, clean pavement. Some area roads are so rough and others are so filthy near the curb that they are unsuitable. Sadly many marked bike lanes are so poorly maintained they are worthless.
  • Light traffic. This causes a strong bias for residential streets, although routes do use main traffic arteries if they have ample room for bikes and reasonable separation from other vehicles.
  • Slower traffic flow. E-bikes greatly reduce the speed differential between cyclist and traffic but nevertheless we’d prefer a 25 mph street over a 40 mph street.
  • Fewer, easier intersections. This often overlooked factor in bike routes causes the most delay and injects the greatest danger for cyclists. We look to reduce broad, heavily trafficked main intersections on our routes.
  • Ambiance. Our most critical factors are for efficiency and safety, but one of the true joys of everyday e-biking is experiencing the city in a way unavailable to others. Our routes feature bucolic residential streets, dramatic skyline views, human-scale commercial districts and other delights along the journey.

The routes are generally designed for commutes of 10 miles or less, equating roughly to 30 minutes or less for those on fast (28mph top speed) e-bikes.

Note that unlike most cycling routes, ours do not avoid steep grades. E-bikes neutralize hills. This allows us to design routes that are much more direct.

Using e-bikes every day

E-bikes make cycling for everyday purposes much more feasible–especially in a hilly city like Kansas City. They are powerful and speedy. They zip up the steepest of KC hills. They move much nearer the speed of cars traffic. They require much less exertion to cover distances. They are a coming revolution in urban transportation.

Still, biking in a city is dangerous. But routes can make all the difference between an unpleasant, dangerous ride and a safe, enjoyable one–avoiding difficult intersections, busy streets and poor pavement. Often a slight tweak in the route can yield a big improvement.

We’ve mapped several key routes that serve important cycling corridors in Kansas City. A system map shows all of the routes and links to detailed maps for individual routes. These routes can be sent to various GPS apps and Google Maps, and include turn-by-turn audio and on-screen instructions when used with the iOS and Android app “RideWithGPS”.